Pa. lawmakers advance redistricting overhaul as deadline looms

Written by Emily Previti/Keystone Crossroads | May 23, 2018 6:31 AM

Members of Fair Districts PA, which advocates for redistricting reform, rally on the Capitol steps. (Katie Meyer/WITF)

(Harrisburg) -- Lawmakers have advanced a bill that would change Pennsylvania's constitution to put the state's congressional district map in the hands of a citizens' commission - whose members would be chosen by elected officials.

Originally, SB22 provided for an independent citizens' commission selected at random, modeled after (or "on") the process in some states such as California.

But the bill was amended today to call for a commission comprised of four registered Democrats, four Republicans and three independents should 'independents' be lowercase, or is it referring to the American Independent political party?. Eight commissioners would be picked by party leadership in both chambers (two commissioners per leader) and the remaining three by the governor. The measure requires the commission to approve a map with at least seven votes; if not, the matter would go to legislature, which currently has mapmaking authority.

The state Senate Local Government Committee voted out the measure unanimously before a small meeting room overflowing with redistricting reform advocates.

Fair Districts PA Founder and Co-Chair Carol Kuniholm says there are some details missing from the amended legislation, including commissioners' qualifications and how they will be selected.

But Kuniholm and committee chairman Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, say they wanted to move the bill. It has to get through both chambers before July 6 in order to stay on track for a new process to be in place by the next time Pennsylvania redistricts in 2021.

The full Senate could pass SB22 as soon as June 4.

At the House State Government committee - where SB22 would likely begin its journey in that chamber - multiple redistricting bills recently have been stalled and then overhauled to change their intent.

If the measure does get through the House this session, both chambers would have to pass it again next session. Voters would then have to approve the new process before it becomes law.


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